Tigers Above, Tigers Below

So, as I once heard, the story went like this: A young woman ran, pursued by a tiger, and climbed down a vine over the edge of a precipice as her pursuing tiger looked down on her from above. Looking down, she discovered another tiger waiting for her at the bottom of the precipice. Just then she noticed two mice, one black and one white, gnawing on the vine that held her above the ground. Casting about for what to do she spied a strawberry, plucked it and ate it. It was the sweetest strawberry she had ever tasted.

Here in a completely different life, but perhaps connected, I am waiting to hear from Social Security about whether I still have an income. They asked for information from me accounting for my various caregivers recently so that they can evaluate my disability status. I feel that they might decide I don’t need them anymore, but then what? So much of my survival is contingent on my SSI status – medicaid, food stamps, even rent assistance all hinges on it. And I don’t think I can get a job in NYC that will cover the loss of these services.

My life, as I know it now, hangs in the balance.

So, here I am on Youtube, listening to a crowd of people waiting for a concert to begin, singing Bohemian Rhapsody. And it is the sweetest sound I have ever heard.


White Pigeon

I gotta stop trying to preach at you folks, as if somehow I know things. All the time I’m trying to teach, I’m not saying anything. I might as well be farting- not even real down to earth honest farting that has a real aroma to it, and you can definitely say, “who farted?” but only some fake digital fart that you can’t even point to.

So, I’m gonna stop doing that. Hopefully, from now on, when I fart, you will know that I farted.


Today was good.

 After several days of sitting in, reading, getting nowhere in my studies, I got fed up with not having any of the food I’ve been craving – simple things really, a bit of chicken, some chocolate maybe, instead of the steady diet of end-of-the-month bologna, crackers, and processed cheese. I had roughly $20 in my account and tomorrow is the first, so I decided to splurge.

On my way to the store, I sat down by the Grand Concourse on one of the metal benches and watched the cars go by back and forth in front of me, making turns – and the people going by, crossing the intersection, singing to themselves, talking on their cell phones, walking with their kids… And the sun was rising to my left; I could see it out of the corner of my eye as I sat there in the shade, and eventually the light was in full force on my face, shining in my eyes.

In that brief moment, I tried to understand how I could be not-seeing the beings in front of me. Beings are right there, aren’t they? I know that I am projecting onto them, but they are still there, right? But what’s there beyond my projection? What is really there?

I think it’s all changing. We exist in a state of flux. Perhaps we are not individuals, but rather processes. But all I see, I am told, is a series of snapshots. So I sat there, watching and trying to understand that I wasn’t really seeing. And then, a white pigeon waddled towards me, shining in the rising light. As I watched it, it crossed in front of me, and then as a bus approached the curb, it flew suddenly, up and away, it’s wings flashing. And I thought, maybe that’s it.

And the sun shone full on my face, and it was warm. So I got up and walked to the store.

Tara, embodiment of the goodness within all of us, you exist in the nirmanakaya as the rising full moon. Help me to see clearly and to communicate goodness to suffering beings.


“I look at you all; see the love there that’s sleeping…”

I watched the debate tonight. Along with many of my friends, I reacted with the expected horror at the continued inability of our would-be leaders to understand the implications of their behavior. And yes, as a socially liberal New Yorker, I think you know who I was rooting for, and also at whom I spent that two-hour span throwing my derision. Yes, I had fun exorcising my horror at the current state of political affairs. My friends and I bolstered one another’s sense of humor in the face of circumstances that seem incredibly horrible.

But today is John Lennon’s birthday, so if only in honor of him, I feel ready to calm down and look at the situation. What I see is suffering beings. On all sides of the Hillary (and/or Bernie) v. Trump situation, I see fear. I don’t understand all the causes and conditions for this, but I do know that those who would cause suffering are themselves suffering. It’s sort of like the physical property of equal and opposite force: the pressure inside a structure must be equal and opposite to the pressure applied from the outside or a structure will not maintain coherence.

Think about it for a moment: the suffering we feel inflicted on us is equal in force to the suffering we would cause in turn upon beings around us. That some of that suffering actually comes from within doesn’t matter; we still react to it, and those reactions cause suffering.

All I know for sure is this: I am afraid. And the people on the “other” side are afraid. And the people who seem to be egging on the people of whom I am afraid are themselves afraid. And if we are afraid, then there must be something we think we must protect. We love our children, our way of life, our connection to the divine. We all have a sense of something good; something worthy of our care.

As we enter the last few weeks of the election cycle, I feel that it is important to contemplate the suffering of those who seem frightening to me, and to realize that this suffering joins us together in basic goodness.

Please get out there and vote. But please also try to be gentle in spirit towards those who frighten you.

Nothing else really helps.


Not Much Going On

It’s a beautiful day, and I am out walking around near the George Washington houses- this old old stone tunnel and then the view of the Bridge, and the steep hill on Lexington Ave. And I can see myself looking at all the special things as if somehow I could hold onto them- as if life’s meaning were answered by all the special things one could observe and really notice.
What’s it like to drop that? To not be looking for or at anything in particular but to be somehow seeing everything?

And now sitting here near my home, noticing the aversion to that asshole walking down the Grand Concourse with his loud stereo. Fuck him, you know?

I wonder if it’s ok somehow- all this averting and grasping. Maybe that’s the spice in the meal of life. But even that seems like something I could grab onto.

Perhaps just to let it all go- the grasping, the averting, the thinking about the grasping and averting- perhaps that would just leave me sitting here on a bench near the bus stop on the Grand Concourse, doing it all and somehow not doing anything.

To Be Held is Not to Live Forever

I cannot help but grieve the death of brilliance.
Something is tethered to my heart
and won’t let go, you pull
that string with you into the unknown never.
I cannot follow it.

Teacher, will you hold me in your heart?
To be held is not to live forever, but to follow,
fearless, the ones who go before.

My comfort is this: to breathe through the tears.
Although I see the unknown stretch before me,
still the empty blackness of your eyes,
the unknown always,
is wrapped around this frightened rabbit like a shawl,
heart beating fast.
“Be still,
still, my darling, sweetheart, shhh…”

Rising Water

When the waters rise, where will you be?
Swept away, or
On high ground, waiting…
The fissure widens between us,

My friends,
My beloved.
Where will we be?
At the end, when my soul cries out…

Can I touch your hand?
It’s all we have now.
Eternities crumble.

I see the mountains falling
Into the sea,
But I must run errands today,
And tomorrow.
Where will I be?

Plans Fall Apart; Life Happens

So I went on retreat this week: cat-sitting for a friend. I was going to explore some practices and study related to an assembly I am going to in July. The whole thing fell apart in the first day. I figured out very quickly how to undo the block I had set on my phone and now I am watching Netflix. I think what happened was that I was too gung-ho about it, but also, I think I really needed time that was just mine, to relax; space that is mine, sort of.

Also, I think, I placed so much energy into the Buddhism project, and it’s not about that. I was looking for something real, and what I took refuge in, the Three Jewels, is real, but it’s not. It’s just another finger pointing to the moon, but it’s not the moon. It’s just existence. It’s just the moment, sitting here tapping on the phone while the tuxedo kitty sits on the windowsill nearby. It’s the light filtered through buildings into the window and reflecting off of the floor and walls. it’s the leather couch. It’s a relaxed body, and head and neck bent at a weird angle by the armrest.

Maybe it’s also the fretting that I have to be doing something; the worry that my life isn’t going anywhere.

Maybe it’s that, and also coming back from that.

And then, toasted roll with butter and scrambled eggs.

The Truth About Diet (From My Personal Perspective)

Ok, so this has been bugging me for a few days:

Dear ayurvedic, vegan, holistic, organic, herbal medicine, cleansing people,

I know. Your method of eating is so wonderful. You feel so much better. You cured your own cancer, or migraines, or high blood pressure, or whatever. And you did it all through clean living, avoiding GMOs, and some wonderful substance that is either banned by the government or so obscure that you needed some health guru to turn you on to it. Or maybe you figured it all yourself. Good for you (and/or the guru who helped you.)

You feel good. I’m happy for you. You’ve found The Truth. Please allow me to reiterate: I’m happy for you. It took me decades of searching before I found something that felt like the Truth that turned out to be reliable. I’m not going to talk about that here. If you really wanna know, feel free to PM. But honestly, if you don’t know, you really don’t wanna know. And I’m not gonna tell you, unless you ask, because you have already found your truth, and you’re happy.

But you remember that moment when you found It? Remember that pride? Did it happen because you complained about some problem with your health and some friend of yours said, “well, that wouldn’t be a problem if you just …”? You had to do your own search, didn’t you? And now you spend lots of time with other people who found the same Truth, and you tell each other how right you are. Right?

When I complain about some dificulty and you go in on a speech about how my problem would be magically cured by whatever system you’ve discovered and how I should not be taking medications from Big Pharma because they are lying to me and using me as a guinea pig… well, it’s annoying. ok?

I’m a bit of a slob. It took me forty years to discover that frozen veggies can be heated up with leftover rice or put into ramen noodles. Let me say that again: it took me forty… years… to bring simple vegetables into my diet. If I had waited that long to cure my problems with diet, I would have died by now, of the blood pressure that actually can’t be cured with diet because it’s … wait for it… genetic.

When you start spouting about how wonderful your diet is and how it will cure all my ills, you don’t know all that. You are also forgetting an important factor, something that is in your face every day and maybe you just don’t even notice: not everybody can afford your diet. Sure sure, maybe I could grow a few herbs in my house (remember what I said about it taking me forty years to start eating frozen vegetables? In what part of my geriatric years do you think I will catch up to that idea?) But a few herbs grown in a terrace (which I don’t have) garden will not cure my blood pressure. And don’t get me started on the cost of organic food. Let’s just say a trip to Whole Foods would cost me at least three times my budget for food.

Please don’t take all of this as disrespect. I’m doing what I can. I meditate. I study dharma. So, you’ll understand, I hope, when I say that I’m dipping my toes into the alternative stuff. And I think maybe you’re onto something. I just don’t have the energy, money, or time (what with being dirt poor and deeply involved with buddhadharma) to invest in experimenting with alternatives to the methods that are actually working quite well for me.

So, I’m gonna go back to my white rice and my peas and my scrambled eggs with schmaltz rendered from untrimmed chicken leg quarters (59 cents a pound, 29 cents if I get lucky.) Later today I will have lentils from the batch I made in the crock pot with a smoked pork neck bone and tomato paste and dried herbs and garlic powder. Yum. This is as good as I have ever had it, and I’m actually quite proud of myself.

So, I have a deal to make with all of you all-accomplished gurus of healthy living and clean colons: Don’t rain on my parade and I won’t rain on yours. Mkay?

Metta, Namaste, Peace, Blessed Be,

And I mean that sincerely,



I remember a conversation I had with my stepfather many years ago. He was one of the deacons of our church, and he was quite well educated in Protestant dharma. He had books in Greek and Hebrew in his personal library and was conversant in the various important concepts in his faith: grace, sin, faith, salvation, etcetera. He was getting on in years when I knew him. He’d been divorced and remarried and he’d had several children who were themselves grown. He had the manner of a wise and experienced man who had learned to laugh at himself and to be gentle with others.

I was in my early teens, just starting to go through puberty; a lonely kid who didn’t get along well with my peers. I was a big Jesus nerd, interested in all the nuances of doctrine and fascinated with anyone who would actually talk with me one on one about that. So, when we fell into talking about doctrine in a car ride home from an errand, he had my full and undivided attention. Somehow we wound up talking about grace and sin. His idea, which made sense to my young mind, was that since faith in the sacrifice of Jesus was all that was needed to free us from sin, then as long as we maintained faith then any action we could take in that moment would itself be right correct and free from sin. It’s a nuanced position, and one with flaws. I won’t attempt to analyze it here; that could be a lengthy treatise and anyway I trust that my readers will have little problem intuiting the inherent difficulties with that position.

Three months later, my stepfather, this wise man and deacon of our church, initiated a sexual relationship with me. I will not describe in this post the damage that was incurred by this action. I will let it suffice to say that I spent decades repairing the rift in my soul. I am fortunate to have stumbled onto a spiritual path that has allowed me the confidence, self-love, and awareness needed to work with my past.

There is an arrogance that is the achilles heel of the advanced practitioner. And though it’s usually nowhere near as obvious and agregious as my step-father’s indescretion with me, I still see it in myself: I am so profoundly comforted and at ease compared to the time before I found this path that I forget that I’m not done growing. I get caught up in how far I’ve come, and how wonderful my life is now. I also tend to think that because I’ve taken on so many practices and come so far in the curriculum of my school that I am somehow better than I was. It becomes easy to identify with the unconditional buddha nature within me and to forget that I am still here, still human with all my flaws, bogey-men, fallacies, habits, and assumptions.

Discovering unconditional confidence, buddha-nature, christ consciousness, whatever you call it, is wonderfully freeing. My teacher often refers to that confidence we all have as a razor. Razors are very sharp and very responsive instruments. And, they respond to habitual patterns as well as skillful decision-making. As people who are maturing on the road to consciousness, it is our responsibility to avoid mistaking confidence for license. It’s important for us to slow down, apply discipline and pay attention to our actions. We are the vanguard for the awakenment of the human race, which is exciting. But we must always remember that we are not in this to leave others behind. In fact, it’s important to lead from the rear, like generals. So let’s be kind to ourselves and the rest of our comrades.

In the immortal words of Sergeant Esterhaus: Let’s be careful out there.


Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche wrote a book about this sort of thing: Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. I cannot recommend it enough.